Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Pebbles in Your Pond

I'm a little burned out, and I blame McGilchrist. For those of you keeping score at home, we began our review of The Matter With Things on April 27, over a month ago, only for it to end in a whimper of indiscriminate new age panentheism. That's it?  

Anyone feels suffocated inside anyone else’s intelligence.

I'm aware of this, for which reason I try to leave a little air for readers, and not fill every cavity with my idle speculation. Not only is this blog inneractive,

Sentences are pebbles the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric ripples that spread out depends on the dimensions of the pond. 

The last chapter is called A Sense of the Sacred, and along the way there are references to folks I haven't taken seriously since I first got involved in this racket, such as Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Rupert Sheldrake, Wendell Berry, and Teilhard de Chardin, sprinkled in with Hegel, Spinoza, Whitehead, and especially Bergson. 

Now, Bergson is as wrong as wrong can be, even though I understand the appeal, since he offers an intellectual cure for scientistic reductionism and atheistic spiritual retardation. 

Except it's not a true cure, since the fundamentally untrue can never be a permanent cure for anything. I suppose it's more of a palliative: an opiate for the tenured, or for folks trying to extricate themselves from scientistic LH capture.

Again, I can relate. You first have to think your way out of materialism and give yourself permission to believe. Then you start embracing socially acceptable things such as Yoga or Zen, the latter so totally free of dogma that all you have to do is pay attention to your breath for the rest of your life. 

After you've fooled around with your breath for a few incarnations, you can dive into gloriously unhinged countercultural practices such as orthodox Christianity, and let God do the heavy lifting:

Nothing attracts me as much in Christianity as the marvelous insolence of its doctrines.

Some people say you can't prove the existence of God. Maybe you can't prove it to them, but you can certainly prove the existence of the left, and the left hates Christianity. Now,

Evil has only the reality of the good that it annuls.

Therefore, without us -- without Racist White Supremacist Christian Patriarchal anti-LGBTQ+ Haters -- their whole universe collapses. No wonder they can't leave us alone.

What does that have do do with anything? 

I don't know, but if we've learned one thing from The Matter With Things, it is that the LH is ground zero of Dunning Kruger, in that it is insanely confident about what it thinks it knows (which mostly consists of abstract models of reality) and totally dismissive -- not to say ignorant -- of what it does not and even cannot know, e.g., nonlocal wholeness, nonlinear complexity, metaphor, and the vertical more generally.

This principle of verticality is of critical importance, because -- among other reasons -- it was here before we arrived on the scene fifty or a hundred thousand years ago; it is not something "invented" by the RH, rather, discovered by it. 

Ultimately it is why we have this bilateral asymmetry of the hemispheres in the first place. But reality is one, so in spiritual health both hemispheres should be dialectically involved with one another. 

True, it is far worse to have a missing, underactive, or dysfunctional RH, but it's a little like choosing between sight and hearing when health, or normality, means possessing both. 

Nor is there Sightworld separate from Soundworld, rather, one world with sights and sounds: the five senses are integrated by a higher one called common sense; likewise, we might say that the RH and LH are unified in a higher hemi-pneumasphere called intellect.

The closest McGilchrist gets to the intellect is Bergson's intuition, which is a very different function in a radically different system -- a system of pure becoming rather than being. I don't know how much time I want to spend on the primordial incorrectness of this view. Of Bergsonian evolutionism, Garrigou-Lagrange writes that it

is true from the perspective of the senses. However, from the perspective of the intellect, it remains true that the imperfect exists and is determined only in view of the more perfect.

Bearing in mind that ultimate reality is Absolute-Infinite-Perfect. 

Evolutionism turns the cosmos upside-down, such that

self-creative evolution is ascending, and then, in it, the more comes from the less, the more perfect from the less perfect. It rejects the mystery of creation..., in order to substitute absurdity for it, now placed at the root of things...

God "goes from surprise to surprise" while being fully plunged into and identified with the surprises, as opposed to being -- in my view -- the very principal of Upside Surprise, AKA Continuous Creation. 

Panentheism is okay but Creation is better. Having said that, the former at least "represents an admirable reductio absurdum proof of God's existence, for it leads one to choose between the True God and radical absurdity" (ibid.). 

The above noted cosmic ne'er-do-wells such as Alan Watts often appear on the same page with luminaries such as Dionysius, Augustine, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Pascal, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Josef Pieper. (I suppose I shouldn't hit too hard on this, since I used to be prone the same indiscriminate approach to the vertical.)

Some of these thinkers are not like the others, and in more ways than one. Yes, the Catholic ones listed in the paragraph above are members of an organized religion which McGilchrist otherwise rejects. They are also much deeper and more serious thinkers than the others, and I wonder why? 

Many aphorisms came to mind. I'm looking for one in particular but can't find it -- something to the effect that modern man seeks a religion without grace. To which I would add the original sin which is the shadow of our original grace and justification.

Now that I think about it, I would have absolutely loved The Matter With Things back in the 1990s, when I was just kid with a crazy dream, a suburban shaman wingin' it in the vertical and trying to invent his own religion. But now I say:

Originality must adhere to the continuity of a tradition.

There's a particular kind of music I like, which is... how to put it... right on the border between adventurous post-bop and avant-garde free jazz, structure and chaos, a musical now out of which novelty flows. 

Now that I think about it, it's also between LH and RH, memory and anticipation, being and becoming -- like the religion the Almighty & me works out betwixt us, it is endlessly becoming but always in the orbit of the celestial attractor in vertical phase space, the Being Without Whom....


julie said...

I'm a little burned out

Lot of that going around this week. I initially read this post's title as "Pebbles in Your Head," which sounds about right today. Anyway, to the post.

julie said...

modern man seeks a religion without grace.

No grace, no redemption, no forgiveness and no mercy. Or rather what they call mercy is usually death with a smiling face on it.

ted said...

McGilchrist, for all his intelligence, still suffers from anything-but-christianity syndrome. There's a lot of these thought leaders out there these days and I believe if they jumped their concerns would not be answered but perhaps better understood despite not being taken seriously by their peers.

Gagdad Bob said...

That's certainly how I was, back when I was a passive product of the anti-Christian bigotry of the academic left.

Gagdad Bob said...

But if you wonder why an Aquinas (and so many other Catholic luminaries) was so supernaturally brilliant, it's not due just to natural reasons. There is such a thing as intellectual grace (as is true of supernatural beauty and virtue).

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't believe the word "grace" is uttered in 1578 pages, but I could be wrong, since I skimmed some parts.

julie said...

Funny, when I was going through my anti-Christian/ atheist/ countercultural phase, what kept me from going completely LH was the fiction I read, which almost always had an element of the (explicitly not Christian) supernatural. At some point, you can't help but notice that people have a deep-seated need to believe that something more is not only possible, but necessary.

Prior to making a pest of myself here, I never picked up a theological text.

Gagdad Bob said...

re The kind of music I like:

If you look at the photo of the jacket, the image will also bulge, but the content is a vibrant feeling that reminds the earth of Africa. Message From The Nile is 12 to 13 minutes of bloody tide. It is a powerful number that will bring up.

For those who play, flipping piano touch makes me a pleasant mood. Tenor is also good blowing, but the tone of the soprano saxophone is good and perfect fit with this worldview! In the event of a sudden soprano, goose bumps stand.

Receiving the image of the wind driving through the earth without obstacles. The tone of the harp that is inexhaustible is a habit.

His Blessings of the last number is a free feeling, not much jazz-listening, but such a number that you feel really something “raw”. It is workmanship to become a habit across the whole story. I'm a chronic McCoy addicted to what to hide, but I can not let go of this one -- I'm addicted.

julie said...

Interesting; that would be good music for creative work. Reminded me of one of my painting instructors in college, Al Bright. He would do freeform painting along with jazz music. Found a youtube channel featuring some of his performances and interviews with Art Blakey.

julie said...

The video where he's singing the blues, note the socks. Al was always a sharp dresser but loved the crazy socks :D

Anonymous said...

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

For some clear cut, for others subject to interpretation. Speaking of Donald Trump, I think his election, stolen election, and ability to dodge all accountability while everybody else around him falls, (except for strangely, Hillary Clinton) is proof enough of a loving God and leftist Satan. But we certainly can’t let the left make our hero go to prison.

Gagdad Bob said...

Love Art Blakey. His mission in life was to bring jazz to the people, hence the name of his group, the Jazz Messengers. He thought jazz was getting too esoteric and inaccessible, so he dialed back the complexity a couple notches and threw in a soul and gospel feel. No noodling solos: all solos had to go somewhere and say something. So many notables came up through his group, including Keith Jarrett. I also love the idea of painting along with the music, and now that I'm thinking about it, both are RH activities, so maybe the music helps to suppress the LH so you can get on with the painting. Very beatnikish. When I'm not a conservative old hippy, I'm a conservative old beatnik.

julie said...

There's definitely something to that. When I'm really getting into art, music is almost a requirement for distracting certain parts of the brain so that other can operate more freely. Even better if it's something I can sing along to. Unless I'm reading/ writing something, then there can't be words.

Here's a crazy thought, I am in the middle of reading an article about using transcranial brain stimulation to induce a flow state and speed up the learning process (it almost sounds like a literal thinking cap); I wonder if music combined with certain other activities doesn't have the same effect, without the potential side effects that would come with sticking electrodes on your head?

Gagdad Bob said...

For me, I always listen to abstract jazz when I'm reading. If there's a distinct melody, then the LH focuses on it.

As for brain stimulation, I don't know if it's related, but I use one of these spiritual placebo machines to aid my afternoon meditation. I don't even know if it works, but it does make for a good (albeit expensive) timer.

Gagdad Bob said...

It's an abiding machine, and no old hippy should be without one!

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